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Insider: Panthers' loss to Falcons falls on Rivera

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By PFW staff

The following quotes are from NFL scouts, coaches and front-office personnel, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

• “(Falcons WR) Roddy White got behind the corner and safety (in the Panthers’ 30-28 last-second loss). That’s ABC fundamental football in that situation not to let it happen. It’s on both the head coach (Ron Rivera) and the coordinator (Sean McDermott) to get that right. I think (Carolina) should have gone for it on 4th-and-1 (at the Atlanta 45 with 1:44 left). They needed an inch. Cam (Newton) is 6-foot-6 and had a chance to redeem himself after fumbling. If you don’t get the first down in that situation, you deserve to lose. Any way you look at it, I think it falls back on the head coach for not finding a better way to control the game at the end.”

• “Falcons (OLT) Sam Baker was hurt all last year and playing through injury. He has played better. (ORT) Tyson Clabo is one of the most underappreciated tackles in the game — he is very consistent. I was worried about the line early and wasn’t sure how the back end was going to hold up without Brent Grimes, but the safeties (Thomas DeCoud and William Moore) have played really well. And Julio Jones has taken the next step.”

• “How many guys have been good enough to get into the (Pro Football Hall of Fame) in multiple capacities ­— as players and coaches or executives? (Ravens GM) Ozzie (Newsome) is one of the few. Mike Ditka would probably not make it as a coach, but Ozzie has done a terrific job in both areas. It’s a credit to him.”

• “What’s interesting to me about the referee situation: I talked to one of the refs who has done Super Bowls and really works at his craft. The problem for the NFL — when you’re paying a head coach, you’re talking about year-round preparation. Coaches work all week and all year. There is no true offseason anymore. How much preparation do you think referees are doing? The good ones study tape during the week, but a lot of them just show up on Saturday and leave Sunday and they are done. That is why the NFL wanted a bench with different crews.  They wanted to weed out those that don’t prepare properly and bring accountability.”

• “It’s way too early to be talking about the Super Bowl. Look at all the past Super Bowl winners and who started hot and cold. It’s not where you start — it’s where you finish. There are so many injuries that take place. Where was New York at this time last year?  Everyone thought they were awful but they got healthy at the right time. Early on, the entire key is preserving and staying healthy and then it comes down to being able to find your groove late in the season down the stretch. The teams that are healthy late in the season and come together are the teams that have the best chance. We’re not close to being there yet.”

• “(Cowboys ILB) Sean Lee got blind-sided and blown up by (Seahawks WR) Golden Tate, but if that has never happened to you before you have not played football very long. Everyone gets knocked off their feet at some point in their career. You learn from it. What I think is most impressive is look what happened in that game — Lee bounced back and had 21 tackles (according to the team). You don’t think it bothered him. It tied an all-time record. Sean Lee has quietly become one of the best linebackers in football.”

• “The Jets are a bad football team with too many issues to compete this year. It’s going backward, and I don’t see it getting much better this year.”

• “(Broncos CB) Chris Harris is very underrated. I’d say he may be the most underrated cornerback in the league right now. When the Broncos did not have him on Monday night against Atlanta, they felt it. Good (nickel backs) are hard to find.”

• “(Patriots rookie DE) Chandler Jones had one great move against Tennessee (in the opener) and really has not rushed the passer since. Those rookies are playing a lot of reps and not getting waved much. That does not make it easy.”

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